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Guide to Dock Building: Tips for Planning, Construction, and Maintenance

Updated: Nov 28

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Invest in a quality Radtke dock!

Building a dock can be an exciting and rewarding project that can enhance your enjoyment of the water on your property! At Radtke we have decades of experience with marine projects such as dock building to help you achieve your dream waterfront property!

Many boating enthusiasts build a dock for launching their watercraft from, such as boats, jet skis, and kayaks. Others are interested in building a dock to fish off of, or even to have a place for relaxing or swimming.

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to build a dock, know that it does require careful planning.

In this dock building guide, the experts at Radtke Contractors will cover everything you need to know. This includes planning, design, construction, and regular upkeep, to keep your dock in great shape for years to come!

Related: 7 Things to Consider Before Building a Dock

1. Planning & Designing Your Dock

The first step to dock building is planning and thinking about the design you want.

Also, consider it's functionality. As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of different uses for a dock. These could be anything from storing and launching watercraft, to fishing, to swimming.

Before you start the project, you'll want to consider the following factors:


First, you'll want to build your dock at a spot on your property where it's easily accessible, safe, and deep enough for your boat. As you think about your dock's location, you'll want to consider the depth of the water, the distance from shore, and also the weather patterns in your area.


The size of your dock will depend on your needs, preferences, and the size of your watercraft. Consider the length, width, and the height of your dock. Additionally, think about how you plan to use the dock. Will you need any space for seating or storage? When in doubt about the proper sizing for your dock, be sure to talk to a trusted local dock expert.


Another one of the major factors you'll be considering for your dock is the materials. The materials you end up choosing will largely depend on your budget, water activity, and your personal preferences.

Common materials customers choose include wood, composite decking, and aluminum. Wood is a popular choice for docks because of its natural look and feel and cost effectiveness. However, wood docks require more maintenance than some other materials since it's more subject to decay. By comparison, composite decking is a low-maintenance option that’s much more resistant to rot, insects, and mildew. Lastly, aluminum is durable, lightweight, and requires little maintenance. We detail choosing the right docking material more in this blog post.


Next, you should talk with your local professional dock builder about the different styles available for your dock. Styles include floating docks, fixed docks, and pipe docks. Floating docks provide a lot of benefits to new dock owners since they are versatile and easy to install and can be moved as needed. More in our guide to different docks.

Fixed docks are more stable and can handle heavier loads. Examples of fixed docks include suspension/cantilever docks, crib docks, and piling docks. Meanwhile, pipe docks are easy to assemble and can be customized to fit your needs. Consider your needs and preferences when selecting a style and when in doubt, check with a dock builder. Remember to consider the level of water activity in your area, since that will impact your decision of choosing a more sturdy dock.


Before you begin building your dock, you’ll likely need to obtain the necessary permits from your local government. Check with your local planning and zoning department for more information. Some cities or counties may require a dock permit.

Your dock builder can help take the headache out of the process by obtaining the dock building permit for you.

The dock construction process

2. Construction: A Step-by-Step Guide

Once you’ve planned and designed your dock, it’s time to begin construction. Here are the steps to follow for dock building:

Prepare the Site

The first step of the process is for your dock building contractors to clear the site of any obstacles, including rocks, trees, and debris. Next, level the ground and mark the location of the dock. Make sure you have the appropriate tools and materials before you start building.

Install the Pilings

The pilings are the vertical supports that hold up the dock, which you install using a pile driver or by hand. It's important to make sure the pilings are straight and level. If they're not, it can lead to structural problems down the line. Read more here about how to install dock piling.

Install the Frame

The next step of the dock building process is to install the frame, which is the horizontal structure that sits on top of the pilings. Build the frame according to your design, using the appropriate materials. Make sure the frame is sturdy and level, and use lag bolts to attach it to the pilings.

Install the Decking

Now, you will install the decking, (the surface of the dock). Install the decking over the frame, using screws or nails to secure it in place. Also, make sure there's enough space between the boards for water to drain.

Install the Hardware

The hardware includes things like cleats, bumpers, and dock lights. Install them according to your design. Cleats and bumpers are essential for tying off your boat and protecting the dock from damage.

Test the Dock

Lastly, prior to using the dock, you or your dock building contractors should double check everything is safe and secure. Test for any signs of weakness or instability since it's important to make sure your dock can support the weight of your boat and any other equipment you plan to store on it.

3. Maintenance: Tips for Keeping Your Dock in Top Condition

Now that your dock is constructed and tested, you can expect to use it for many years to come! As a dock owner, you will need to maintain it regularly to ensure that it lasts even longer.

Here are some tips we recommend you follow:

Inspect Periodically & Make Repairs as Needed

Make sure you periodically inspect your dock for any signs of wear and tear. For wooden docks especially, you should frequently check for loose boards, rusted hardware, and rotting wood.

If you notice any damage or wear and tear, make repairs as needed. Replace loose boards, tighten hardware, and sand and refinish the wood as necessary. It's important to catch these issues early on to prevent them from becoming bigger problems that may require an expensive dock repair service.

Clean Regularly

Next, be sure to clean your dock regularly to remove dirt, debris, and algae. Use a pressure washer or a mild detergent and a scrub brush. Be careful not to use harsh chemicals that can damage the dock's surface or harm marine life.

Protect it From the Elements

Consider adding a roof or a shade structure to protect your dock from the sun, and invest in high-quality materials that can withstand the elements. Use marine-grade hardware to prevent rust and corrosion. If a storm is rolling in, you may want to consider removing your temporary or seasonal dock and storing it until the inclement weather passes. A permanent dock will be more durable to withstand storm damage.


Building a dock can be a fun and rewarding project that can enhance your enjoyment of the water. By planning and designing your dock carefully, following the proper construction techniques, and maintaining and repairing it properly, you can ensure that your dock lasts for years to come.

Contact Radtke Contractors to get started on your dock building project today!

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